Post Comments on Orientation 2018

New student orientation for the Fall semester now has two extra days. Instead of SaSuM we have SaSuMTW. Faculty reaction to this new feature of the academic calendar is extremely important.

Please post your orientation-related insights below so that we can learn from one another and successfully plan for 2019. Some things to consider include

  1. Orientation programming has several levels: University, College/Grad School, Department/Field, Housing/Dorm etc. Did you spot coordination issues among these levels?
  2. Did the extra two days solve problems? Did the extra two days create problems?
  3. Did the Thursday class-start make it easier for you to get ready for your fall-semester teaching responsibilities?

Comments are totally anonymous, but it helps if in your posting  you identify yourself, e.g.,  “DGS” or “DUS” or “Masters Program Director” or “Chair” or “New Faculty Member” or “Long-time Faculty Member” etc.

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34 thoughts on “Post Comments on Orientation 2018

  1. There are pros and cons to the later start date when it comes to teaching. Like someone else noted, it would really make more sense to just begin classes after Labor Day, like most universities do. Next year, we’ll start on a Thursday after the extended orientation, and then immediately run into the extended Labor Day weekend. This is terribly disruptive to our courses.

    As a faculty advisor, I did feel that my first year advisees were less harried and benefitted from having a little extra time to figure out their courses. I appreciated that the longer orientation allowed for the incorporation of valuable programs like IDP. However, as a faculty in residence, I also watched students wander around with nothing to do on North Campus for much of the extended orientation period, and I cannot imagine that this was helpful for students’ anxiety levels as they began their first semester of college. I also witnessed/heard about more excessive partying than in prior years. An extended orientation needs to be structured productively for it to make any sense at all.

  2. The extra two days made it easier to spread out orientation activities rather than inundate new students with a ton of information all at once. It also allowed for new students to have some down time to settle into their new apartments, get banking set up, explore campus and Ithaca, and meet with their DGS to set up their schedules.

  3. The continuing problem with the calendar (both fall and more lately spring after its most recent revision) is that there are not equal number of days of the weeks, making classes that meet every day (in different sections) impossible.

    As far as longer orientation, I am not sure this did any good. I don’t notice any appreciable difference in my students and perhaps that is not unexpected. I will say, however, that starting the year with what probably is an over-programming is NOT the message we want to send to these students who will struggle with time management and and inability to do all the things they committed to do. I really think we need to instead teach students (and for some, ourselves) how to RELAX and take a break. Perhaps putting into the “orientation” some days (or a day) off sends a message to them to relax and reflect.

  4. The only major problem with the new calendar is that it messes up the first 7-week course schedule to start on a Wednesday or a Thursday. In fall 2018, Week 7 falls on October break for a Monday-Tuesday starting course. In spring 2018, a Tuesday starting course also had only 6 weeks.
    -A staff member who teaches

  5. Linguistics appreciated some extra time so we could have Grad Student orientation for the department not conflict with the Graduate School’s Monday morning orientation. GFA jmw247

  6. The extra two days available in the university calendar for the fall 2018 semester allowed for us to hold our field orientation, the School of Integrative Plant Science held our orientation all on separate days and in addition we were even able to fit in mandatory green house training and lab safety training that the students normally have to do on their own. With the extra days it allowed us to do the trainings for all new students at once instead of making sure they all completed in on their own. From a graduate field assistant’s point of view it worked out really well.

  7. Much prefer this return to a longer orientation / smaller week of classes as the “first week.” The transition for freshmen, in particular, is a vast improvement to the former schedule, and it provides all classes the ability to acclimate to academics after their summer experiences. And, it gives them the ability to transition into the following week of MWF classes at a more measured pace.

  8. I think orientation was too long and starting on a Thursday was disruptive. I think we should start on Monday August 30 and have orientation a shorter time period the week before.

  9. I would suggest moving the start date back to WED. Very difficult to get momentum going in MWF classes with a 1-3-2 meeting breakdown for the first three weeks. Also, given the number of Mondays in the Fall on which classes are not taught, should the College really be allowing Monday-only classes to be scheduled? Long time professor, former DUS in Humanities Dept.?

  10. I teach a lab course with 4 sections, Tue-Fri. Starting lecture on Friday did not give enough time to effectively start lab the next Tuesday. The extra Wed lecture makes a difference to me.

  11. As faculty in residence on north campus I found that the orientation period this year was too long and gave students too much time to get into trouble. The ratio of non-class days to class days through the Labor Day week is high: Five days of orientation followed by Th/F classes, followed by another weekend, then one full week of classes followed by a short week.

  12. The Thursday start is very disruptive. I teach courses with several sections, some of which have class on MW and some on TR. We teach the course in lockstep – so losing the Wednesday class puts us behind the 8 ball. Please move the first day of classes to Wednesday so that every class has a chance to meet in week 1.

  13. As a faculty member, I think the new schedule is OK. However, as a first-time Cornell parent this year, I feel that the orientation period was too long. It seemed that my son had a lot of time to just wait around for classes to start. If we need to have this longer time period, we need to come up with a better use for the time.

  14. The extended orientation allowed more time for advising, addition of the IDP session and gave freshman the run of the campus after parents left and before many upperclassman returned as well. The whole process felt calmer and less abrupt.

  15. My sense is that the extended orientation is an excellent idea, for two reasons. First, the transition to college is a huge event for students, and Cornell specifically is a large (both physically and figuratively) place, so there is a very steep learning curve for students just in getting situated. The extra days allow for more time for this process. Second, extra days also allow for coverage of issues not previously addressed by the university. The introduction of a segment on Intergroup Dialogue, for example, explicitly give students skills essential to learning and simultaneously registers that the university takes this skill seriously. Future orientations should include segments led by FGSS on gender and sexuality as well.

    On the other hand, for myself and most people I know (largely in the humanities) the Thursday start is a terrible idea (as is the new calendar’s February break). It disrupts the rhythm of both the week when the Thursday occurs and the first full week of classes. Because of the inevitable creep backward of pre-semester meetings, it also destroys that week for faculty trying to get one last bit of writing and/or research done before classes start.

  16. I thought the amount of time allotted for orientation was right on the money this year. Everything seemed to fit but without a lot of extra time. Let’s keep this schedule.

  17. The extra days helped me prepare better to begin classes, thank you.

    As a DUS, I saw little difference in my orientation schedule or responsibilities during Fri-Mon (except as noted below), but the extra two day lag before start of classes gave both new and returning students better opportunities to fine-tune their schedules and check in with advisors and instructors before the start of classes.

    Three suggestions:
    1) Newly arriving external transfer students should begin add/drop on the same add/drop dates as seniors rather than with their fellow sophomores and juniors, because they typically need to make more changes in their schedules than established students in their year, and those changes are often more important for transfers who may have to catch up on key prerequisite courses.
    2) Construction on buildings where orientation activities are taking place should be scheduled to end long before, or to pause during, orientation. Poor construction scheduling forced my department to delay our regular Monday morning new student orientation by an entire day. The change was inconvenient and stressful for students, staff and faculty alike.
    3) More departments should be encouraged to do open house and lab tour events as Environmental Engineering did.


  18. SaSuMT would be ideal. Starting classes on Thurs rather than Wed is a problem. Faculty teaching MW in the fall semester lose four classes over the course of the semester (Wednesday of Orientation, Labor Day, Fall Break Monday, Thanksgiving Wednesday) relative to those teaching TR who lose only two (only Fall Break Tuesday and Thanksgiving Thursday). There are very few MWF courses in our college (Business) so the Thursday start is a real problem for maintaining workload balance.

    (BTW, vastly amused by the anti-spam test which was “spry pupa”. Better make sure Cornell has fit entomologists, then.)

  19. I teach a MW class. Starting on Thursday robs us of a lecture. In the future that first Friday should be treated as a Monday for MW classes.

  20. I have found the Thursday start date extremely disruptive and difficult. I would much prefer that we begin the week on a normal M-F schedule even though it may be disrupted the following week by the Labor Day holiday. I have not seen any advantage to the Thursday start at all.
    Long-time Faculty Member

  21. I didn’t ask my first-year advisees to comment on orientation, but two of the seven volunteered that orientation seemed too long and they were just “hanging around” while waiting for classes to begin. Long-time faculty member.

  22. I do feel my advisees seemed a bit more oriented this year. Then again, this could be because my ten were included in the special “advising seminar” and so we are keeping in closer touch. While I know many faculty reject the idea of the nanny culture surrounding adolescents (as do I), the reality is that these students (this year’s incoming class) started pre-K under NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND and now we can see the full impact of this educational atrocity. We need to admit that to do our jobs well, our students are going to need more education on “how to adult.” Knowing how to care for oneself (and not have mom or dad do it so you can study for the test or the SAT or do five volunteer jobs so your Common Ap will look great) is something our students do not have a grasp on. Maybe orientation in the future could be “ADULTING 101” JM Law, Asian Studies

  23. I am a long-time faculty member, teaching in the fall MWF. I found it very inconvenient to have a single lecture on a Friday, followed by two weekend days. This disrupted the important early days of the course when students form an appropriate study pattern. I also had to drop the first optional talk I give every Friday afternoon to my students, because I had no opportunity to explain this aspect of the course.

  24. Longer orientation period is a highly positive change. New calendar, with Thursday class start, works very well.

    Long-time faculty member

  25. Even though we had extra days, it did not seem like the A&S advising office used that time effectively. I think better planning in the future, particularly by advising office & deans, needs to be implemented to better take advantage of that time. We were hoping to use that time for department-specific orientation activities on Monday for interested freshmen, but were unable due to conflicts.

    Finally, heard numerous complaints from parents this year about their freshmen not getting adequate advising leading up to orientation (at least in A&S). Suggest we reconsider how A&S advising is handled in the weeks leading up to orientation.

    Kyle Shen, DUS of Physics

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